You asked whether SSA should allow name changes, for enumeration purposes, based on
Illinois civil unions between opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples beginning June
1, 2011, when a new state law recognizing civil unions goes into effect. For the reasons
discussed below, we conclude that Illinois will allow a party to a civil union (either
opposite-sex or same-sex) established on or after June 1, 2011, to change his or her
name, and will accept an Illinois civil union certificate as proof of a name change.
Therefore, SSA can consider an Illinois civil union to be a name change event for
In February 2011, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Religious Freedom
Protection and Civil Union Act. Pub. Act 96-1513, 2010 Ill. Legis. Serv. (West) [hereinafter
Civil Union Act] (to be codified at 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 75/1 et seq.). The law will go into effect on June 1, 2011. Relevant portions of the Civil Union
Act are noted below:
“Civil union” means a legal relationship between two persons, of either the same or
opposite sex, established pursuant to the Civil Union Act. See Civil Union Act § 10.
“Party to a civil union” means, and shall be included in, any definition or use of
the terms “spouse”, “family”, “immediate family”, “dependent”, “next of kin”, and
other terms that denote the spousal relationship, as those terms are used throughout
the law. See id.
“A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities,
protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to
spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law,
or any other source of civil or criminal law.” Id. § 20.
The provisions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act pertaining
to dissolution (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/401-5/413) and declaration of invalidity (id. 5/301-5/306) shall apply to civil unions. See id. § 45.
According to SSA policy, in order to process a name change based on a marriage, civil
union, or domestic partnership event, evidence of the name change event, the new name,
and identity is required.  See POMS RM 10212.055. SSA will consider a civil union to be a name change event if the relevant state
allows for the establishment of civil unions, see POMS RM
10212.040(A), and either (1) state law specifically allows a person to change his or her name
based on a civil union, or (2) under state law, a civil union is equivalent to a marriage.
See POMS PR 02705.008 (PR 07-162), PR 02705.032 (PR 08-043), PR 02705.033 (PR 07-072); see also PR 02707.055 (PR 09-169) (similar analysis for domestic partnerships). A civil union certificate
issued by a state which recognizes civil unions is acceptable both as evidence of
the name change event and as evidence of the new name, if the new name can be derived
from the document. See POMS RM
10212.015, RM 10212.040, RM 10212.055.
Beginning June 1, 2011, Illinois will allow for the establishment of civil unions.
See Civil Union Act, supra. Although the Illinois Civil Union Act is silent as to whether
a party to a civil union may change his or her name, it appears that the state will
allow such name changes as a matter of policy. For example, an Illinois resident may
request a corrected driver’s license or identification card due to a name change by
providing “acceptable identification to create a link pertaining to the change between
the previous information and the new information.” Ill. Admin. Code tit. 92, § 1030,
app. B(c), (h); see also Illinois Secretary of State, Acceptable Identification, http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/drivers/drivers_license/acceptable_id.html (last visited April 28, 2011). We contacted the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office
of the General Counsel and were informed that they will be accepting civil union certificates
for a change of name on driver’s licenses effective June 1, 2011.
In addition, the Civil Union Act makes clear that a civil union is equivalent to a
marriage under Illinois law. Specifically, under the Civil Union Act, the term “party
to a civil union” means and is included in the definition of “spouse” and other terms
that denote the spousal relationship. See Civil Union Act § 10. Moreover, a party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal
obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are granted to a spouse
under Illinois law, and statutory provisions concerning the dissolution and declaration
of invalidity of marriages also apply to civil unions. See id. §§ 20, 45. An Illinois marriage certificate may be used as proof of a name change
for various purposes. See, e.g., Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 470.50(c)(2) (temporary identification cards for released
offenders), tit.68, § 1410.210 (home inspector license), tit. 68, § 1440.450 (auction
license), tit. 68, § 1450.150(a) (real estate license), tit. 68, § 1455.210 (real
estate appraiser license), tit. 77, § 750.1895 (food service sanitation manager certification);
Mem. from Reg. Chief Counsel, Chicago, to Deputy Assoc. Gen. Counsel, Office of Program
Law, Request for Regional Chief Counsel Opinions on Legal Name Changes (Jan. 30, 2006) (driver’s license).
Thus, we believe that Illinois will allow a person to change his or her name based
on a civil union established on or after June 1, 2011, and will accept a civil union
certificate as proof of a name change. This applies to both opposite-sex and same-sex
civil unions. See Civil Union Act § 10. Accordingly, SSA should accept a civil union certificate issued
by the state of Illinois for a civil union established on or after June 1, 2011, as
evidence of a name change event. See POMS RM 10212.040(B). We recommend that POMS RM 10212.040(A) be updated to include Illinois as a state which allows for the establishment of
civil unions effective June 1, 2011. We have included suggested draft language below
this memorandum for your convenience.
For the reasons discussed above, we conclude that SSA may allow name changes, for
enumeration purposes, based on civil unions established in Illinois between opposite-sex
as well as same-sex couples on or after June 1, 2011. As a result, an Illinois civil
union certificate may be used in the same manner as an Illinois marriage certificate
as proof of a name change. We have suggested draft language to update the relevant
Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel, Region V
Assistant Regional Counsel